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Birthday surprises from little-ish people

I celebrated my birthday three days ago, and it was quite a day, filled with lots of celebration and fun.

Elysha, the kids, and I went to our favorite diner for dinner for burgers, shakes, and cake.

My colleagues brought me lunch and a Carvel ice cream cake – my favorite food in the world.

A former colleague returned to school to deliver me a birthday gift and say hello.

Lots of people wished me well in real life and online.

But it was the gifts given to me by students that really stood out. They included:

A 1980s-styled wig – designed to highlight my less-than-robust head of hair.

A poster-sized bathroom pass inspired by a Far Side cartoon, reading, “I am missing an educational experience because I have to tinkle.”

Overuse of the restroom, extended use of the restroom, and poor timing of restroom usage are all plagues of fifth grade.

“Nothing good ever happens in a room full of toilets!” is one of my constant refrains.

A stuffed duck, crocheted by hand by a student (which took hours to make), alongside a blank, handmade birth certificate allowing me to choose the name and gender of my duck.

I’m still thinking. Suggestions welcomed.

A crocheted bottle of Diet Coke.

A hat with string attached to the back to look like hair – again highlighting my less-than-robust head of hair.

Golf balls stamped with the phrase, “Grow the legend, Matt,” which is something my friend Scott advises me to do when playing golf.

Scott – an outstanding golfer who played in high school and college – believes in playing smart golf unless you have the opportunity to do something ridiculous but unforgettable. On those rare occasions, you should throw caution to the wind and attempt the shot, as foolish as it may be, to “grow the legend.”

This gift of golf balls was given by a former colleague whom I introduced to the game a couple of years ago after retiring and is now obsessed.

The gifts were hilarious, heartfelt, and deeply appreciated, but the cards and notes written by students meant just as much. I constantly, relentlessly tell my students about the power and meaning of the written word, and they have clearly been listening and did not disappoint. Their cards were masterpieces of wit and wisdom, kindness and cruelty, and everything in between. They touched my heart while stabbing me in the back. Complimented me in one sentence while insulting me in the next. They made me laugh out loud at their hilarity and brought tears to my eyes with their sweetness.

“You still have more energy than all of us at 53! Happy birthday, little man!”

“You have many different qualities. Some I admire. Some I despise.”

“You are very weird. Crazy in many ways. A big meanie. But sometimes you can be inspiring. Different in a good way.”

“Thank you for teaching me so much and being my friend, but remember, every birthday brings you closer to death.”

“Happy birthday, you pain in the butt. I mean that in a mostly good way.”

I’m often asked why I still teach with so many other career opportunities available to me.

“Why teach when you’re doing so many other things already?” was something I was asked just yesterday in an interview.

This is why.